Live Each Day to the Fullest as Patients and Survivors

When I joined St. Luke’s cancer support group in the fall of 2021, I met a guy who’d been attending the group with his wife for some time before. Our group meets monthly, on the third Sunday of every month. John was my peer, and both of us had recently reached remission from our respective cancers. I felt a connection with him because of the timing of our respective cancers. Additionally, we were both from the Eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh, not the North Hills, where we both currently live. Pittsburgh’s North Hills is the area where our cancer support group takes place. John taught middle school math for 36 years in a nearby public school district, and although I’d put my degree in education to use in more nontraditional ways, I sensed our mutual fondness for teaching and learning.

As I neared the five-year mark of my lung cancer diagnosis in June 2018, I wondered whether John’s May CT scan had been clear. John and his wife weren’t at our group meeting that month. In June, I had my scan, survived the scanticipation (the nervous anticipation of a medical scan), and was declared cured! It felt good but was hit by a bit of survivor’s guilt. The third Sunday of June was five days later. John and his wife were there, and our leader Bill started telling us John’s story.

John’s original cancer was a sarcoma in his arm; however, after his biannual CT scans showed no recurrence or metastases, his medical reports were good. But all was not so fine. And John mentioned the pain on the left side of his abdomen to his oncologist, repeatedly. His scans were clear, but sarcomas are relatively rarecancers and his scans were directed toward his lungs, the location in the body where sarcoma tumors most commonly spread to. A mistake in directing the CT scan was the only reason that the mass in his pancreas was revealed — for the first time — at his five-year scan.

A few weeks agowas John’s visitation and funeral.

It was a completely sunny morning. God was completely smiling down at us. Walking into the sanctuary on the last day of January, I felt pure peace. John was a humble man, and a good guy. Our funeral Mass ended with a young man playing “Silent Night.” John is sleeping in heavenly peace.

John’s wife Meg has continued to attend St. Luke’s Cancer Support Group in the past ten months. It meant a lot to her and meant a lot to the group of us to continue to have John in our lives through her.

Life can change so fast for those of us at any point in a cancer journey.

Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Live every day to its fullest!

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.

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